He “got rhythm” in only 38 years. Who could ask for anything more?

He “got rhythm” in only 38 years. Who could ask for anything more? 3856 3024 Julia Rubens

Gershwin’s tragedy was not that he failed to cross the tracks, but rather that he did, and once there in his new habitat, was deprived of the chance to plunge his roots firmly into the new soil. -Leonard Bernstein

In honor of our first Broadway show, I wanted to give a nod to its composer – the legendary George Gershwin. When spanning important 20th century American music – jazz, showtunes, and the rise of popular music delivered on film – the name Gershwin is ubiquitous.

The odds are, you know a few Gershwin songs without even knowing that you know them.

His story starts straight out of the opening of a musical itself, on the streets of turn-of-the-century lower Manhattan. Born to Russian Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, George, along with brother Ira (later his lyricist) and other siblings, grew up around the Yiddish theatre in the East Village. His father was a factory man, and as he was hired and fired, Ira said the family lived in 28 apartments during their childhood.

By no means was George destined to be a composer.

In fact, famously, he first discovered the beauty of music as a 10-year-old attending a neighbor girl’s violin recital. When his parents bought a secondhand piano, it was due to Ira’s interest, not George. And it was their sister, Frances, who first supported their family with talent on the stage, singing for $40 a week and even appearing on Broadway. Yet Frances married and retired. And soon George would begin to wear out the family’s piano, not Ira.

George Gershwin

A teen prodigy, he dropped out of school at 15 to focus on piano full time with his teacher noting, “I have a new pupil who will make his mark if anybody will. The boy is a genius.” As in any rags-to-riches tale, George worked hard, first as a “song plugger” in Tin Pan Alley playing new sheet music as a marketing gimmick for publishers, and later working as a rehearsal pianist on Broadway.

An accidental genius, when George started composing, he was prolific. Though his first composition earned him only 50 cents, George simply arranged, wrote, and recorded hundreds of songs in his late teens. What makes Gershwin different is that he had one foot in the classical world and one in the world of popular music, creating hybrids that have been described as “distinctly American.” But this American sound was propelled by others.

Writing “Swanee” around the time he turned 20, the hit propelled Gershwin to stardom and millions of copies sold, having been covered by everyone from Judy Garland to the Muppets. This also begins the Gershwin brothers’ complicated history with racially musical traditions, as “Swanee,” like many vaudeville numbers at the time, cannot be disassociated from the abhorrent practice of minstrelsy, and was in fact first popularized by blackface performer Al Jolson.


Much of the foundation of modern musical theatre comes from these shameful traditions. However, George was fascinated by African-American music and wanted the ability to tell genuine stories with black performers on stage. Porgy and Bess was the first opera (and Broadway performance) that featured a story and a cast of and about black Americans. George did travel down to Charleston, South Carolina to try to accurately capture the music of African-American spirituals in the work. And he was known to go visit all-black performances in New York, breaking segregated lines. But still, though George’s attitudes were sometimes daring in crossing the color barrier, the cultural appropriation that pervades his legacy and that of others of his time is difficult to grapple with in a modern context.

At the height of his career, George switched seamlessly between writing classical music, jazz, and truly defining the concept of “showtunes” on Broadway and in film. Yes, you’ve heard Gershwin music, even if you can’t identify it.

Consider the ubiquitous clarinet opening of the orchestral Rhapsody in Blue and the light Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers film Shall We Dance:

Aren’t those tunes familiar?

George’s prolific output during his lifetime alone included at least five full orchestral pieces, two operas, 15 Broadway musicals, five films, and countless piano numbers and popular sheet music. All of this output was before George passed from a brain tumor early at the age of 38. And putting this rough count together does not counting the many, many hundreds of rearrangements of his pieces in musicals and films posthumously, which is most likely how you and I first heard Gershwin.

“Gershwin’s melodic gift was phenomenal. His songs contain the essence of New York in the 1920s and have deservedly become classics of their kind, part of the 20th-century folk-song tradition in the sense that they are popular music which has been spread by oral tradition (for many must have sung a Gershwin song without having any idea who wrote it).” -Michael Kennedy

And what about An American in Paris?

The legacy of this musical, playing March 17 and 18 at The Grand, is so unusual and twists through multiple decades and even centuries. It is often cited by contemporaries as one of the best movie musicals of all time, though it lacks the name recognition of films like Singin’ in the Rain and Chicago.

One hundred years ago, George was enamored by French Impressionist composer Maurice Ravel and booked a trip to Paris to learn from him. Amazingly, Ravel turned him down, saying, “Why be a second-rate Ravel when you can be a first-rate Gershwin?”

Yet during his time in Paris, George began tinkering with a small fragment inspired by the Parisian spirit that he called a “rhapsodic ballet.” This basis began An American in Paris, a jazzy orchestral piece completed in 1928, which has often been performed with ballet dance. George noted, “My purpose here is to portray the impressions of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city, listens to the various street noises, and absorbs the French atmosphere.”

The composition itself, fascinatingly, splits between French styles while the character is “walking” the city and the native American Blues of the homesick visitor. In that way, it was made for drama.

Gene Kelly vamps it up in the film version

And the score sure found it. In the late 1940’s, a movie producer named Arthur Freed was fascinated by Gershwin music and pushed Ira to sell some of George’s catalog. His vision? Use the iconic American composer and the French-sounding score to cash in on the patriotic (yet internationally-curious) post-war spirit coasting through America.

The film was a success, with the star power of Gene Kelly at the helm in 1951. It was lush, risqué, and featured stunning sets and long musical numbers that were expensive to produce – the finale alone was filmed over four weeks. The fantastical, rhapsodic ballet atmosphere Gershwin attempted to produce decades earlier burst into Technicolor life under Vincente Minelli (father of pop culture icon Liza).

And after clinching Best Picture at the Academy Awards, the golden era of musical movies burst forth in rapid succession. Without An American in Paris, movie musicals would have been stuck in vaudeville stereotypes of sequins and plunking away at a piano. When one considers the conceptual boldness of something like The Sound of Music, for example, with its extravagant tracking shot of Julie Andrews in the Austrian mountains, know that would not have been possible without the filmmakers who paved the way for the success of the genre.

Stunning dance work pervades the Broadway show

It is no surprise, then, that the stage adaptation for Broadway was directed by Christopher Wheeldon – less of a typical theatre director and more a visionary ballet choreographer, at home in the largest ballet companies in America. Wheeldon ups the stakes of the original movie, placing the plot closer to the door of World War II and emphasizing the war-torn nature of 1940’s Paris. The rhapsodic ballet of Gershwin survives well into the 21st century, nominated for 11 Tony Awards and winning four, including Best Choreography. NPR called it “a perfect mélange of Franco-British-American artistic traditions of dance and theater.”

And soon, An American in Paris dances to our very doorstep. Who could ask for anything more?

The musical will play March 17 and 17 and tickets are available for purchase here and at 478-301-5470. To complement your Parisian evening, a multi-course preshow meal package from Lazy Susan Tapas called Midnight in Paris is available as an add-on at checkout.

-Julia Rubens is the Director of Arts Marketing for The Grand Opera House

It’s Not A UFO, It Is Throat Singing

It’s Not A UFO, It Is Throat Singing 4190 2683 Joe Patti

Chances are, you haven’t heard of Tuvan Throat Singing. Chances are, you also haven’t heard of Tuva, a small country in the Russian Federation located south of Siberia.

All that is okay. We invited the group to Macon so you have an opportunity to encounter something new.

Here at The Grand we have big, flashy shows full of spectacle that often cost you $50 or more to attend. We are also a place you can have small, intimate experiences where you can meet artists and satisfy a curiosity to learn new things without feeling you are risking your time and money.

Alash is one of those groups. I have worked with Alash before and they are a lot of fun.

Actually, the fun part is watching people in the audience, from 4 year old kids to 80 year old grandparents, trying to replicate the sound coming out of the singers’ mouths.

The one comment many people make is that the singing style must strain vocal cords.

People are surprised to learn the technique is very natural and relaxing even though it sounds like the throat is constricted to an inch of its life.

Just check out the video below. Often they are creating a really big sound but their lips are barely open. You almost wonder if it is real or a trick with the microphones. The sound had to be loud. The technique was developed as a way for people tending herds to sing back and forth to each other across fields and valleys.

My favorite technique starts at the 3:00 mark. To me it sounds exactly like the sound effect for a hovering UFO, but there are no tricks, just his mouth.

If you are thinking, these are strange things that people from other places do, remember the goal of beatboxers and a capella groups is to create a whole range of sounds with just their voices.

There is a beatboxer from Baltimore who goes by the name Shodekh who traveled to Tuva to learn the technique. He will be on the tour with Alash and can answer questions about how beatboxing and throat singing work well together.

You may have seen him in the video below we have posted about the show.

If any of this stimulates your curiosity in the least, swing by The Grand on March 12, 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10

-Joe Patti is the Executive Director of The Grand Opera House

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain 960 960 thegrandmacon

It is probably just one of the many members of the crew working to make the magic of a show happen.

For the average attendee to a show at the Grand it is just that, a show. The curtain opens to a particular scene that is a key feature for the story about to unfold right before your eyes. What many do not realize is that to create those magical moments takes many hours of work and coordination by an army of stagehands.

Bob poses with Trekkie Monster from Avenue Q

A typical day of show starts at about 7 a.m. with as many as six semi-trucks filled to the brim with scenery, costumes, lighting and sound equipment lining up at the back of the theater to be unpacked and assembled by the production crew. The size of these crews can be as small as a handful of people who work most shows, all the way up to sixty or so people that travel from the surrounding area to tackle the immense task of turning a blank stage into a city street, living room or even a faraway jungle.

This is no easy task. In fact, it can seem like organized chaos. Trusses filled with lights are being hung from motors that are secured to steel beams eighty plus feet overhead all the while walls for a elegant ballroom are built right next to them. Costumes are carefully removed from the gondolas they travel from city to city in and placed in an exact location for optimum efficiency for the actors to change making the transition from one scene to the next well seamless.

The work to put the show together typically continues right up until the moment that the house is opened to let the audience into the theater.

Under the grid of The Grand

Don’t you worry, the fun doesn’t stop then. Many of the same people that have worked feverously to construct what you see on the stage then transition into a new role. Spotlight operator, Wardrobe assistant, prop master, audio technician — just to name a few of the many positions that are required to make a show seem to just happen. Fast forward a couple of hours and the crowd rises to their feet to cheer the performers one final time.

Bob poses pre-show with actors from The Nutcracker

For the patrons, all that is left is to head home wrapped in the glow of an amazing story that they were a part of. For the crew, the work ramps up to a fever pitch as the army of stagehands armed with trusty crescent wrenches begins to disassemble what they spent most of the day putting together.

The fly rail in the theater

Down come the lights, down come the walls, the speakers and the drops. Everything has a specific home, be it box or cart to ensure that the next morning, in the next town, it will all be right where it needs to be so that it can fit back together again.

For the people that make a living in production, days are long and the applause is for someone else. We get satisfaction in a job well done, and if you don’t notice us, we have done our job perfectly. So next time you see a show, remember that it takes many more people than just those onstage performing to create to the magic. In fact, I just might be the man behind the curtain that you never really see.

-Bob Mavity is the Senior Technical Director of The Grand Opera House

My Grand Family

My Grand Family 372 499 Nikki Vincent

I always tell people that I have grown up at The Grand — and that’s not a lie. I really feel like I have.

Nikki dressed up as a Mercer student clerk

I remember coming to the GrandKids series as an elementary school kid, being excited that I was out of school for the day and being thrilled that I got to enjoy things that “big people” get to enjoy. I remember the feathers on the Native American dancers’ clothing and the drumming that I felt down in my toes as I watched them dance on Mulberry. I remember fondly the smell of the chalk that I got to use on the Grand’s sidewalk as part of an arts event. I’m sure my mother remembers it as well, since I wore more of the chalk dust than the sidewalk did.

As a Mercer student, I was given the opportunity to work in the Box Office as a student ticket clerk, which thrilled me beyond belief. I thought that it was going to just be a fun job to hold my senior year.

Little did I know that returning to the place I remember fondly from my childhood to “just sell tickets” would lead to me discovering my passion, my career, my second family.

One of the greatest joys I have had in working at The Grand is that I have been able to go on a journey with many of you as The Grand has evolved and developed. We have experienced many changes together, the good (hello bathrooms!) and the ugly (…I know that some of you still miss the center aisle.) Through the years I have been blessed to have grown to know many of you on a personal level. Through The Grand, I’ve become part of your lives and you’ve become part of mine.

With The Grand Family at a reception

Nothing thrills me more to see Sloan and Sam Oliver at church on Sunday morning, and get a big hug and an invitation to sit with them. Or seeing Susan Hake out and about in Macon, hearing her opinion of the most recent event and taking notes on what The Grand should consider in the future. Or taking selfies with Elaine Evans in the lobby before she goes to her seat for the night. There are many more of you out there. If I tried to name you all, they may not let me post here again.

I say all of this to tell you that I consider each and every person that walks through this door an extension of my Grand Family. You are the reason I come to work every day and strive to make your experience nothing short of phenomenal. I genuinely enjoy the connection and bonds we share and hope that my Grand Family will continue to expand.

With the shadow cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show after a successful performance

I currently serve as The Grand’s Director of Rentals and Patron Services.

Whew. That title sure is a mouthful.

Essentially, I am here for you. If you have a ticketing concern, email me. Have an issue you want to report, come find me in the lobby at a show. Need to discuss your season tickets? Let’s set up a meeting to walk through The Grand together. Want to chat about a fun experience you have, call me. I’m your girl.

Like I said, I consider you family. Family leans on one another. Feel free to lean on me. I can be reached at 478-301-5461 and

-Nikki Vincent is the Director of Rentals and Patron Services for The Grand Opera House

Seeing What You Love With The People You Love In The Place You Love

Seeing What You Love With The People You Love In The Place You Love 2048 1365 Joe Patti

We love it when people ask us to present performances of different shows and musical groups. That tells us that when people want to see stuff they love, they are thinking about The Grand Opera House as the place they want to see it.

We do keep a list of suggestions, but there are many reasons why we may not be able to present the show. Sometimes it is just that the performers aren’t planning on touring or coming near Macon. So it might not happen this year, but the stars could align in the future.

It may be the show requires a bigger stage than we have. It may be that the show would be better in a smaller venue or a place you can get up and dance.

Some shows people suggest ask such a large performance fee, no one would be able to afford the ticket.

When we contract a show, we are doing a lot more than just thinking about whether the show will make money. The Grand Opera House, like so many other non-profit organizations around Macon, is always thinking about whether we are doing a good job serving the community.

National surveys tell us that the top reason people don’t participate creative arts organizations, whether it be theaters, museums, galleries, concerts, dance performances, libraries, classes, etc., is that they don’t see themselves or their stories being depicted.

Also near the top of the list of reasons is not having anyone to go with you. People value sharing new experiences with family and friends. We love it when people tell us they attended The Grand or saw a particular show when they were young now they are introducing a child, grandchild or friend to The Grand or the show they loved.

But with everyone’s busy schedule, it can be tough finding a buddy to see stuff with. Thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, people will have the opportunity to make new friends with whom they can share new experiences –not just at The Grand, but other area organizations. Keep an eye open for details (Hint: It also involves going to fun places, chatting, and snacking.)

There have been multiple times in The Grand Opera House’s 115 year existence that the community has rallied around it to keep the doors open. We feel like we owe something back so we think very seriously and have long conversations about how we can make better decisions in order to helping people like you see themselves and their stories.

So you will see us at On The Table sessions, meetings for Macon’s Cultural Masterplan and neighborhood community meetings.

No need to wait until a meeting is called to tell us what you are thinking. You can chat with us whenever you see us, whether we are in the lobby or out shopping at the supermarket or in a restaurant eating lunch.


We send surveys out after each of our events so it would be great if you could take a few moments to answer them.

However, if you and your friends want to be more involved and make sure you are being heard, we recently created a Circle of Friends, a group that meets periodically to chat about the future at The Grand.

We would love to have you participate. If you are good at chatting and eating snacks, sign up here.

-Joe Patti is the Executive Director of The Grand Opera House.

Don’t miss a single note. Subscribe to Broadway in Macon

Don’t miss a single note. Subscribe to Broadway in Macon 3840 2160 Julia Rubens

There’s always been something special about the American-born art form of the Broadway musical.

It takes place at a moment where your emotions swell to the point that words just won’t do. It’s the coordination of dozens of performers with moving set pieces, sparkling costumes, and the timing of a live orchestra. A Broadway story is just grander than daily life… or as an expression I’ve often heard, “Drama is not about doing the dishes!”

So why not see it in the grandest place in Macon?

As spring comes upon us, Broadway will visit Macon once again. This year, each musical brings the audience back in time to mid-20th century, wrestling with what it means to be an American in times of upheaval. Yet each story has its own distinct personality, from the breathless romance of An American in Paris, to the high-octane big band brass and dance of Bandstand, to the soulful empowerment of The Color Purple.

Bandstand comes from three-time Tony® winner and Hamilton choreographer, Andy Blankenbuehler.

And there’s one way to get a front row seat and experience every moment. Becoming a subscriber is about more than just savings – it’s about never missing a beat from the first overture to the final bow. You also become part of the engine that powers The Grand to continue telling these stories.

It’s a community that doesn’t stop when the lights come up. Subscribers get special perks and events, like subscriber-only receptions, season preview party, and advanced access to tickets before they go on sale to the general public. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, for example, which sold out in 2019, went to subscribers first for 2020 tickets. There’s opportunities to get the best seats for other performances, too, even for some shows that aren’t presented by The Grand.

The Color Purple was based on Alice Walker’s experiences growing up in Middle Georgia

Subscribers get superior service, from sitting in their preferred seats for every show to being recognized by our staff and volunteers. Some folks have become friends with their seatmates for years at a time.

And yes, subscriptions offer the steepest discount on Broadway in Macon. Subscriptions start at less than $50 per Broadway ticket, a major savings over buying for each individual performance.

With so many reasons to subscribe, why take the chance on missing a daring stage feat, a singer bringing down the house, or a story that stirs the soul?

Subscribe to Broadway now – or contact us with any questions, thoughts, or concerns.

An American in Paris features Gershwin classics like “I Got Rhythm”

And to think that you saw it on Mulberry Street – Our new marquee

And to think that you saw it on Mulberry Street – Our new marquee 236 354 Julia Rubens

Welcome to 2020! At The Grand, we ended the decade with a show of lights, just as Macon got ready to light up downtown for the Christmas Lights Festival. After a year of our marquee sitting dark, we were able to install a new marquee that was bigger and better than ever. This is thanks to a group of generous community donors, businesses, and nonprofits that helped to make it happen.

The history of the marquee is really interesting. Over time, several different marquees have been installed, and sometimes there has been none at all. However, without the marquee, the “grand” presence of the theater inside gets lost in the frontage of the building. Look at this photo above without the — it’s hard to tell what’s inside.

A passersby may not be able to envision the beautiful performance space that awaits without a marquee. But the actual aesthetic of the marquee has changed over the years. The lively and colorful nature of the marquee has caught the attention of passersby as a major attraction in downtown Macon. Here’s a few of our marquees over time:

Eventually, technology evolved enough to have the vibrant screen we have today, which is capable of motion and video:

At night, the marquee is a beacon to The Grand


The most recent marquee iteration before it shut down

The marquee we just installed is different from others in several ways. One of these is that it has cloud-based software, meaning it can be updated anytime, anywhere through the Internet. Our old system had to be updated through a single stationary computer in The Grand’s offices. This marquee can show different content across the three panels, running simultaneous video and animations. Most importantly for the longevity of The Grand, the new marquee has a long parts and labor warranty, which means that if something goes dark, the staff won’t have to scramble. Installing it took a few days and included a fascinating look behind the marquee panel…

Wires and trusses abound

Truth be told, we were only able to make this happen because of incredible donors that managed to raise a six-figure sum for the project. These passionate community members and businesses have ensured that the lights will continue to shine on Mulberry Street and bring attention and awareness to our work in the theatre inside. To honor our donors, we’ve been featuring their names on the marquee. Check it out:

We love hearing stories and seeing photos from our patrons enjoying their night out. Now that we have the marquee back up, The Grand Opera House would love to see your photos taken in front of the show signs. We’re offering a prize once a month and featuring submissions from patrons on our blog in our “Send Us Your Selfies” campaign if you tag @thegrandmacon on Instagram or Twitter or Grand Opera House on Facebook. Hope to hear from you!

Love Letters Meet And Greet Pictures

Love Letters Meet And Greet Pictures 500 648 Joe Patti

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Love Letters meet and greet with Barbara Eden and Barry Bostwick. The staff traveling with the performers provided us with some of the pictures they took. If you are one of the people below and would like an original, please email us at with the number(s) of the images you want.



Help The Grand Replace Its Marquee

Help The Grand Replace Its Marquee 1079 462 Joe Patti

The Grand’s stately digital marquee was installed 10 years ago and has ceased to operate despite our best efforts to maintain it.

Taking pictures with the marquee in the background is something so many visitors do to remember their experience attending events at The Grand. It breaks our hearts that there is a blank band behind them rather than the name of the show they are so excited about seeing.

We hope to purchase a new marquee which will be of much better quality and comes with a seven-year parts and labor warranty.

All gifts for the marquee above $100 will be recognized on the marquee for a period of time and will be permanently listed on a special Marquee Fund plaque in the lobby.

We appreciate the support of those who have already donated to the project.

Give online via our secure website, come in to The Grand, or contact us at 478-301-5470


How big of an ABBA fan are you?

How big of an ABBA fan are you? 1080 800 Emily Stepp

Other fun ABBA facts!

ABBA Mania

In 1977, the band could have sold out London’s famous Royal Albert Hall a whopping 580 times. ABBA’s first concerts scheduled in the UK included two dates at the venue. 3,5 million ABBA-loving Brits applied via mail for the 12,000 available seats.

A bizarre conspiracy theory regarding the band’s male members has been making its rounds for decades. Back in the eighties, the world press discovered that Benny and Bjorn had never been photographed together alone. The fact sparked rumors that the ABBA men were, in fact, the same person. Forensic scientists would later put the strange theory to rest when they studied pictures of the pair, Benny parted his hair to the left while Bjorn had his parted to the right.

Anni-Frid Synni, commonly known to fans as Frida, actually went on to become royalty. In 1986, Frida began a high profile romance with Prince Heinrich Ruzzo Reuss von Plauen who was a prince of the former sovereign German House of Reuss. The former ABBA star became a royal after marrying the prince in 1992, earning the titles of Princess Reuss and Countess of Plauen.

ABBA Mania

During its extensive and wildly impressive musical history, ABBA has broken a string of world records. The band itself has sold between 400-500 million records worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. The pop group was the very first group from a non-English-speaking country to have earned top spots in charts in all English-speaking countries including Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and The United States.




ABBA Mania


Get prepared for the fun! Listen to our ABBA Spotify playlist featuring your favorite hits and related artists.

Take the quiz again!


Learn more about ABBA Mania and our other upcoming concerts by clicking the events below:


September 2022
October 2022
December 2022
January 2023
No event found!